Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Repo: The Genetic Opera

Repo: The Genetic Opera

Plot summary from IMDB.com -

In the year 2056 - the not so distant future - an epidemic of organ failures devastates the planet. Out of the tragedy, a savior emerges: GeneCo, a biotech company that offers organ transplants, for a price. Those who miss their payments are scheduled for repossession and hunted by villainous Repo Men. In a world where surgery addicts are hooked on painkilling drugs and murder is sanctioned by law, a sheltered young girl searches for the cure to her own rare disease as well as information about her family's mysterious history. After being sucked into the haunting world of GeneCo, she is unable to turn back, as all of her questions will be answered at the wildly anticipated spectacular event: The Genetic Opera.

My thoughts:

This was definitely one of the oddest movies I've ever seen. The acting was passable - the singing pretty bad, except the songs done by the fabulous Sarah Brightman. And yet, for some reason, I couldn't stop watching. I found myself strangely fascinated by Shilo and her search for the truth about her family. And, of course, Paris Hilton, who was just exactly what you'd expect. I think the filmmakers were hoping for a "Rocky Horror" -esque cult following, and I just don't think it was good enough for that. But, if you don't have anything better to do, it's not the worst movie you could spend two hours on.

To Hie from Far Cilenia by Karl Schroeder (from Metatropolis)

This is the last story in this audio collection, and it has a decidedly different tone that what came before. Instead of an actual city, this story takes place in a series of virtual cities - interactive, multiplayer game cities which future residents have chosen to abandon the real world to inhabit. There is a larger plot - Gennady, a contractor hired to find stolen plutonium, and Miranda, an anthropologist looking for her lost son, are trying to track down a shipment of plutonium believed to have been stolen by someone in one of these virtual cities. However, the exploration of the cities themselves were, to me, much more interesting than the larger story.

With the ever-growing fascination of massively multi-player online games, it is not a stretch to imagine a time when people literally abdicate their lives in the "real" world in favor of one of these online societies. The complex politics and economics of Shroeder's virtual worlds were fascinating, and I was fully engaged throughout the story.

I definitely enjoyed this anthology - in fact, it's soon to be available in print form, and I'm seriously considering making that purchase.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

#19 Falling Free by Lois McMaster Bujold

Falling Free by Lois McMaster Bujold is about Leo Graf, an engineer sent to teach at a distant space station. What he finds there ends up turning him into an activist.

His students are a genetically modified human subspecies called "quads" who have four arms instead of two arms and two legs. They are also genetically adapted to live better in the low gravity of off world living. While the have the same intelligence, personalities and hopes and desires as humanity, they are treated by the research company as property and nothing more.

Read the full post here

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

#18 Stratosphere by Henry Garfield

I'm an American. Baseball is in my blood. I don't watch the games all the time but it's probably my favorite sport and I'm a sucker for a good baseball story. "Stratosphere" by Henry Garfield takes baseball and creates a near future tale of one of those big game moments.

The hero of the story is one Joe "Stratosphere" Stromboni who is remembered by a fellow player from the Farside league. Although the details of the game aren't spelled out, Garfield gives a number of hints about how the low gravity game would be different from how it is on earth. "Stratosphere" gets his nickname from one fantastic home run that sends the ball into orbit.

Read the full post here.

#17 The Heroes of Googly Woogly by Dalton James

The space adventure that Dalton James imagines is surreal and humorous. The red and blue world of the Soodo and Soodont peoples reminds me of the off the wall space adventures from Danger Mouse.

Despite the goofiness of the planet Googley Woogley the conflict between the Soodos and Soodonts is a good starting point for discussing war, slavery and bulling with children. Like The Sneakiest Pirates the resolution isn't clean cut. With the pirates, their gold is still stolen property and now on Googley Woogley the oppressed become the oppressors, though in a less heavy handed way. In that regard, I am also reminded of The Sneetches and Other Stories by Dr. Seuss.

Read the full post here.

#16 Andreanna by S L Gilbow

Alfred Hitchcock made Mt. Rushmore the perfect location a big budget cinematic chase full of mystery and intrigue. Since North by Northwest Mt. Rushmore continues to be a popular landmark for adventures: National Treasure: Book of Secrets and Ben 10. Now S. L. Gilbow visits with his story of a homesick robot horribly damaged in an accident on the moon.

Read the full post here.

#15 Avenger of Love by Jack Skillingstead

"The Avenger of Love" in the April / May issue of Fantasy & Science Fiction is dedicated to Harlan Ellison. I haven't read enough of his work to get the connection between Skillingstead's story and Ellison's writing. Despite the gap in my reading I liked the story.

Read the full post here.

#14 Sorcerers of Majipoor by Robert Silverberg

Sorcerers of Majipoor takes place one thousand years before the start of Lord Valentine's Castle. The traditional passage from Coronal to Pontifax and the choosing of a new Coronal will be challenged when the blood heir of the soon to be Pontifax desires the throne. Though there is no written law against a blood succession it just isn't done. Until now.

Read the full review here.

#13: The Tribes of Bela by Albert E. Cowdrey

"Tribes of Bela" was the cover story for the August 2004 issue and it's set on another world four light years away named Bela. There is a small mining operation of 1,200 people and in the last couple years a few people have been found murdered. Colonel Robert Kohn has come to investigate.

Read the full review here

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Shelley's 42: 1-10 (Original Star Trek)

1. The Man Trap - “The Enterprise visits planet M-113 for a routine medical inspection of archaeologists Robert and Nancy Crater, but find that Nancy Crater has been replaced by a deadly, shape-shifting creature.”
A somewhat worthy first episode. Their flared capri pants and high-heeled boots caught my eye. Must have been a sixties thing. The monster posing as Nancy was quite the beauty.

2. Charlie X - “While traveling about the Enterprise, a dangerous young man named Charlie Evans terrorizes the crew with his unusual mental powers.”
A hormonal teenager with super powers—scary stuff. The ending was a little anticlimactic.

3. Where No Man Has Gone Before - “After the Enterprise attempts to cross the Great Barrier at the edge of the galaxy, crew members Gary Mitchell and Elizabeth Dehner develop "godlike" psychic powers which threaten the safety of the crew.”
Freaky silver eyes!! Interesting ideas about power.

4. The Naked Time - “A strange, intoxicating infection which lowers the crew's emotional inhibitions spreads throughout the Enterprise. A crew member's inebriated actions place the ship in danger, forcing Scotty to perform a hazardous and untested engineering procedure to save the ship from destruction.”
Most memorable parts—Mr. Sulu brandishing a sword and Spock getting emotional.

5. The Enemy Within - “While beaming up from planet Alpha 177, a transporter accident splits Captain Kirk into two beings: one "good," who acts weak and indecisive; and one "evil", who acts overly aggressive and domineering. Scotty must quickly repair the transporter system to reunite the two Kirks, and to rescue the landing party trapped on the surface of the icy planet below.”
I loved this episode—except for the goofy dog with horns!

6. Mudd's Women - “The Enterprise encounters intergalactic con man Harry Mudd, who is arrested on outstanding charges while ferrying three extraordinarily beautiful women to a remote planet, destined to be wives for the miners located there. In actuality, the plain-looking women use illegal Venus drugs, which make them appear to be much more attractive than their natural appearance; after the drugs wear off, revealing Mudd's deception.”
I really didn't like this one that much.

7. What Are Little Girls Made Of? - “In search of Nurse Chapell's fianc√©, renowned exobiologist Roger Korby, the Enterprise visits the icy planet Exo III, where Korby has discovered an ancient machine which allows him to duplicate any living person with an android replacement. Korby plans to use the machine to spread controlled androids throughout the Federation, and replaces Captain Kirk with such a duplicate in an effort to take over the Enterprise.”
It's obvious what the android Andrea was created for.

8. Miri - “After discovering what appears to be a duplicate of the planet Earth, Captain Kirk and his landing party find a population ravaged by a strange disease, which has two effects: children are granted extraordinarily long life, but anyone who reaches puberty (including the adult landing party) develop painful sores which eventually kill the infected. The oldest child, a girl named Miri, develops a jealous affection for Captain Kirk, and works with the other children to kidnap Janice Rand after Kirk attempts to comfort the frightened yeoman.”
An interesting episode. It's no wonder Miri has a crush on Kirk—he kind of overdoes it on being nice.

9. Dagger of the Mind - “At Tantalus V, a rehabilitation colony for the criminally insane, the inmates have taken over the asylum using a neural neutralizer, which is used to remove (or implant) memories from a subject's mind. One colony administrator, Simon van Gelder, escapes to the Enterprise, leading Captain Kirk to investigate the colony. While on the surface, Kirk is brainwashed and taken prisoner, but is helped by Dr. Helen Noel, a colleague from the Enterprise who joined him on the planet. Spock performs a mind-meld with van Gelder to counteract the effects of the neutralizer, healing his mind and allowing van Gelder to take over the colony after Kirk and Noel's rescue.”
This was a good one—I like stuff about mind control.

10. The Carbomite Maneuver - “The Enterprise find an odd, glowing cube floating in interstellar space, which must be destroyed after it begins to emit dangerous radiation. Following the cube's destruction, an immense, glowing sphere called Fesarius races to the Enterprise's location, controlled by Balok, an alien who announces that he will destroy the Enterprise in retribution. Captain Kirk manages to bluff Balok into believing the Enterprise contains a deadly substance called Corbomite, which would severely damage any attacking ship. After managing to escape the Fesarius's tractor beam, disabling the alien ship, Kirk and a landing party board the sphere, discovering the true identity of the vessel's controller.”
This one was suspenseful and a bit more complex than some of the others. The kid in the end is Clint Howard!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Utere Nihil Non Extra Quiritationem Suis by John Scalzi (from Metatropolis)

John Scalzi is one funny guy.

This is the first story in the Metatropolis anthology with a lighthearted tone, and it's a welcome break. Scalzi's story centers on Benjy, a classic brilliant slacker who put off his required job search too long and is stuck hearding genetically superior pigs in the future New Saint Louis. Doing a favor for the girl of his dreams leads him to stumble accidentally on a scheme by a group of violent outsiders to overtake New Saint Louis, and gives Benjy the chance to be a hero. And get the girl. And have a pig at his wedding.

I really liked this story. It was much more about the people who live and function as members of the establishment, which we haven't heard a lot about yet. The structure and heirarchy of New Saint Louis was quite fascinating, and I'd be interested in another story set in this location. And of course, John Scalzi and reader Alessandro Guiliani (Felix Gaeta from Battlestar Galactica) were a match made in heaven. Guiliani perfectly nailed the sarcastic tone of Benjy, and had me laughing out loud several times.

I think there is only one story left - I will be a little sad to leave this world. It's been a great ride so far.

The Red in the Sky is our Blood by Elizabeth Bear (from Metatropolis)

Boy, now things are getting really good in this anthology.

Narrated by the phenomenal Kandyse McClure (Dualla from Battlestar Galactica), Elizabeth Bear's entry tells the story of Cady, a take-no-prisoners type gal with just a few of her own secrets to keep. Cady is in hiding, with her stepdaughter, from her ex-husband, a leader in the Ukranian mafia, and one bad dude. She has built a tenuous life for herself, which she waits every day to collapse. When a stranger approaches her with too much knowledge, and a really weird offer, Cady has to decide if she can trust this new acquantaince, or if trust itself is just too risky.

Bear sets her tale in the Detroit of Stochasticity, so we are already familiar with the location, which allows us to feel instantly at home. This is my favorite of the stories so far, probably because I sympathized immediately with the feisty heroine. There is a fair amount of political rhetoric, but it didn't feel quite as obvious as in the last story, which I appreciated. Bear's group of "rebels" also seem less overtly anarchist, making them easier to like.

In case anyone has an interest in this collection, you should head over to Audible.com - they are currently offering Metatropolis FOR FREE - it's a really great deal!